An 82kg mother-of-two who died a few weeks after she had gastric sleeve surgery may not have been a suitable person for the procedure, an inquest was told.
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After trying Weight Watchers and other diets with no long-term success, Gerda Dunkel went to her doctor in August 2015 and asked for a referral for bariatric surgery.
Ms Dunkel, who had a body mass index of about 30, was fit and well but was experiencing snoring, sore knees and back pain.
The 44-year-old was discharged from hospital after an uncomplicated sleeve gastrectomy in October but was readmitted about a week later after her spleen ruptured.
Doctors later found blood clots throughout Ms Dunkel’s body and she died after going into cardiac arrest.
After her death, it was discovered Ms Dunkel had an undiagnosed genetic mutation that meant she was a “ticking time bomb”.
Coroner Sarah Linton held an inquest into Ms Dunkel’s death in a bid to find out more about the threshold for bariatric surgery.
Expert witness Michael Talbot, who works as a bariatric surgeon in Sydney, said Ms Dunkel may not have been a suitable candidate for the weight loss surgery.
He told the inquest the risk to benefit ratio of the surgery was a lot smaller in people with a lower body mass index.
Professor Talbot said Ms Dunkel did not seem to have any recorded significant or potentially disabling illnesses relating to her weight.
But the surgeon who performed the operation at St John of God Hospital in Murdoch, Stephen Watson, said Ms Dunkel had raised cholesterol and problems associated with fatty liver.
He said Ms Dunkel’s father had died from diabetes and she had seen her siblings become morbidly obese.
“She made it very clear that this was what she wanted to do because of her concerns about her health in the future,” Dr Watson said.
“She wasn’t saying to me ‘I want to fit into a smaller dress’ or ‘I want to change my body image’, for her it was all about her health.”
Dr Watson said Ms Dunkel’s situation was an absolute tragedy and he felt for her family.
Haematologist Andrew McQuillan described Ms Dunkel’s situation as very unusual and said it was “exceedingly rare” for a spleen to rupture.
He said there were no clues along the way to suggest Ms Dunkel had a genetic mutation.
Dr McQuillan said the risk of getting a clot in an bariatric surgery was quite low.
Ms Linton will hand down her findings next year.
This content was originally published here.